Coins play a vital role in the making of the history of a nation. The study of coins is known as Numismatics. Coins help in reconstructing the economic life of the people, trade and commerce, religion, metallurgy etc. Coins in Odisha can be grouped as punch-marked coins, the Puri-Kushana coins, Gupta gold coins, Nala and Sarbhapuriya coins, Srinanda, Kalachuri and Nagas, the Ganga fanams and probable Gajapati Pagoda.
The punch-marked coins
The earliest coins available in Odisha are punch-marked coins which were in circulation between 4th century B.C. to 4th century A.D. These coins were profusely available in coastal eastern parts of Odisha. These coins were made of silver and copper and were irregular in shape and size. These coins bore the punch marks of sun, animals, birds, trees, human, geometrical designs etc. These coins could very well give a picture of ancient economy of Odisha.
The Puri-Kushana coins
The Kushana coins and their imitations known as Puri-Kushana coins have been found in large numbers being scattered at different parts of Odisha from Mayurbhanj to Ganjam. These coins were in circulation in Odisha for around the first three centuries of Christian era.
The Gupta coins
The occupation some parts of Odisha by Samudragupta brought Odisha in touch with the Gupta empire. The Gupta archer-type gold coins have been found at Bhanapur, Khiching and Angul. These coins give an idea that trade and commerce of Odisha existed definitely with the Gupta empire.
The Nala coins of the western region of Odisha
The Nala coins of the western region of Odisha threw light on the Nala rule in South Kosala of 5th-6th century AD. The peculiarity of these Nala coins is that the reverse is found blank and the obverse contains a humped bull with crescent with the name of the king in box headed script. The Nala coins have led to the reconstruction of the history of the Nalas. Even now the coins of Nalas are being discovered regularly.
Other important coins of Odisha
Besides the above coins we have found many other coins which have shaped the history of Odisha. The Gold coins of the Sarbhapuriyas have helped a lot for the reconstruction of the history of that dynasty. The coins of Prasannamatra, Mahendraditya and Kramaditya help a lot in the reconstruction the genealogy and chronology of that dynasty. The findings of these coins from Chatishgarh, western parts of Odisha and Cuttack suggests that there was a trade link between Chhatisgarh and Cuttack via western parts of Odisha. The Srinanda coins have been found from Soro. He as a ruling chief of Chhatisgarh region i e 6th century AD.
A Somavamsi gold coin ( 9th to 11th century AD.) consisting of the image of GajaLaxmi have been found from Junagarh. The Kalachuris of the Western Odisha (10th-14th century AD.) issued varieties of coins in gold, silver and copper coins. These coins have been found from Sonepur, Khurda and Jonk river valley describe about Ratnadeva, Prithvideva and Gangeyadeva. The gold coins of Chhindika Nagas (Bastar-Koraput region) also issued gold coins. From their coins it is known that they ruled over Sonepur in 12th century AD. Further, the discovery of Padmatankas (coins bearing lotus having eight petals a he centre) has opened new dimension to Odishan numismatics. These coins belong to the Jadavas of Devagiri. However, their rule in Odisha is doubtful.
With the coming of the Ganga rulers, Odishan coins took a new turn. The small gold coins known as fanams were issued by the Ganga kings. Those fanams are found from Angul, Cuttack and Sonepur. These coins bear South Indian influence. Some gold coins have been found in Karnataka. Those coins are also known as Gajapati Pagoda. These coins were in circulation between 13th-15th century AD. It is really difficult to assign these coins to the Suryvamsi Gajapati rulers. However, the coins have helped a lot in reconstructing the history of Odisha.